It's strange as a parent watching your kids go through a stage of life that seems like one that you just went through yesterday. Watching and celebrating with my daughter yesterday over her A level results, with the local paper taking photos and taking part in interviews on BBC Radio London, led me to some introspection and reflections.
I mention her here not like those round robin christmas letters of perfect families, or to make something of me from her accomplishments. But I guess this is the closest to a journal that I have. And amidst the joy of celebrating her, I find the Kingdom of God suddenly all around me, visible and palpable that I want to reflect on.
That time for my A level results does seem like yesterday. It was a time where I had recently become a Christian. My father had not long disappeared in the middle east having left my mother. I spent a great deal of my school time caring for my baby brother, whilst my other brother was out doing whatever he was doing to survive. It was a miracle that I even finished my A levels.
I have strong memories of how worship, being with God's people, and entering into kingdom imaginations that God had a plan and purpose to bless me, sustained me through that time. My A level results day with my family, was such a non event, I do not remember it all.
But the new life I was entering into, was embryonic, bright and colourful and full of anticipation. I look back at that time and read those shimmering memories through 25 years of life and experience.
I remember the new sense of identity that conversion brought to me. That somehow all the way through me, body, soul, mind and spirit, in the deepest part of who I was, there was hope. The pervading sense of tasting with my imagination the reality that I belonged to God and he had the most wonderful hopes for my life. I abandoned all the other day dreams of escape from my situation and embraced this one.
Therapists have had a field day with me over that, as you can imagine. We all having coping mechanisms and they might reduce this experience to just that, but as I remind them within their methods I'm free to choose my own coping mechanism and glad I chose this one. Or rather it seems that it came from outside me and chose me, seized me.
I also remember that this new found identity entailed giving up more of myself. There was no crutch to lean on, but a cross to cling to. My situation had brought me to the end of myself, but here I was invited to bring all the pain and brokeness to the cross with others. Psalm 73 is one of the first Psalms I read that taught me to bring myself, in my darkest moments to the cross in worship.
I had read the Chronicles of Narnia many times, in moments of escape from the violence of my childhood. I think now that Jesus used that to prepare me for meeting and following him. This experience of coming to the cross with the deepest part of who I was, reminds me of this from the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe:
“It means,” said Aslan, “that though the Witch knew the Deep Magic, there is a magic deeper still which she did not know. Her knowledge only goes back to the dawn of time. But if she could have looked a little further back, into the stillness and darkness before Time dawned, she would have read there a different incantation. She would have known that when a willing victim who had committed no treachery was killed in a traitor’s stead, the Table would crack and Death itself would start working backwards.”
Death itself, began working backwards for me.
Then there was an entering into God's economy. Learning that healing and His providence flowed into my life, not through escape and him buttressing my aspirations, but through serving him with others. Getting through my A levels was an early experience of that economy of the Kingdom. Spending myself, when at the time I had nothing to spend, multiplied so much of Jesus into my life.
And I remember entering into celebration, for the Christian family I stepped into, was one that celebrated (it did lots of other things like all Christian families, but that was another lesson!). It was a Church community that understood the Kingdom was a foretaste of the banquet to come, and celebrating, and partying was in order. Compared to the destruction and darkness of so much of my childhood, this was like oxygen, light, and coming out of a dark place into space and new horizons. Seeing Christians affirm the best in others with others, speaking out words of love, encouragement, in celebration that we are made in the image of God. That was a mellifluous contrast to the words that usually rang in my ears at home.
And I was stepping at that time from isolation, into the network of the Kingdom. The beginning of knowing who I was through connection to brothers and sisters, aunts, uncles, mothers and fathers of the Kingdom. Family.
Scientists tell us that the universe, the particles that make up reality, vibrate in ways that are the music of creation. Watching grown men
, rational scientists of the highest order, weep with joy at the latest mars rover landing, reveals something of that music I think. As I recall that period of my life, being 18, my memories seem infused with a resonance to the music of the creator of the universe. My sense of that music ebbs and flows, as the Kingdom does, but I sensed it again yesterday with my daughter.
And in my daughter I see all these signs of the Kingdom and more. Seeing her results and university opportunities were wonderful as a father. But I see them through more than that. I see her exploration of God's dreams for her life, her practice of prayer and worship through the struggles it took to get to here, her desire for Jesus and serving him being greater than her desire for good grades, and the experience of being able to speak words of life and love from my heavenly father to her. Just some of that was going in inside me yesterday, as I was surrounded by a deep sense of my own loss form the past, but was mired at the same time in redemption, healing, and life and the Kingdom.
'Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.'